Hello and welcome to my column. I want to take this opportunity to recognize the tremendous work of Dr. Bill Cole, who is retiring on June 30 from the presidency of East Central University. His legacy is simply incredible.

Since coming to ECU in 1989, Dr. Cole has made gigantic strides across the campus. He has led ECU through the technology revolution, made continuous improvements of campus facilities, and developed centers of academic excellence.

Dr. Cole’s latest project – the $25 million Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center – will house the art, theatre, communications, and music programs that are now scattered in four buildings several blocks apart. Currently under construction, it will be a beacon to the arts and the newest jewel on the ECU campus.

Physical improvements to the ECU campus are a big part of Dr. Cole’s legacy. Including the new fine arts center, he has overseen 21 construction, renovation, or expansion projects during his tenure. Among these are a new library and a new university center. His work has truly been ground-breaking in this respect.

Dr. Cole has also worked to develop centers of academic excellence, particularly in nursing, history, and criminal justice. The nursing department is ranked among the best in the region. The criminal justice program is becoming prominent nationally as it seeks to become the state center for education and training for law enforcement.

Dr. Cole’s expertise has touched every aspect of the ECU campus. He has overseen 16 endowments of chairs, professorships and lectureships; approximately $100 million in grants; the growth of the ECU Foundation from less than $2 million to approximately $20 million in assets; and ECU’s entry into NCAA Division II athletics.

Inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 1996, Dr. Cole leaves ECU with a very strong foundation. During his 17 years, Ada’s very own regional university has gained a reputation as one of the best in this part of the country.

Dr. Cole’s legacy isn’t limited to the ECU campus. He has always been active in our community. I can personally testify to that. He was an incredible help to me when the City of Ada hosted the Oklahoma Conference of Mayors 2004 Summer Retreat. On behalf of the entire community, I want to thank Dr. Cole for all his hard work. Something tells me retirement will not slow him down!

I hope you enjoyed this column. Be sure to check back every other week for more. To read my archived columns, visit www.adaok.com/donna_york.htm. Drop me a line at mayor@adaok.com and share your thoughts with me. I’ll keep you informed!

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